VANCOUVER, B.C. — A cherished diamond ring has been returned to a woman in British Columbia, thanks to the dogged work of a homeless man on Vancouver Island.
Trinda Gajek was visiting Nanaimo last week when she came across a young man who she said "wasn't looking so good" and offered him some cash.
She emptied the zippered change pocket of her wallet and gave everything inside to the man, forgetting the contents included a beloved piece of jewelry — a "good mother ring" that her now-grown children helped her buy when they were in high school.
The next day, the Salt Spring Island resident realized her mistake and turned to Facebook, hoping someone might be able to track down the piece.
Gajek said her exchange with the young man left her feeling hopeful she might be reunited with the ring, a thin band with baguette, or rectangular, diamonds across the top.
"He was a very polite young fellow, very appreciative. And I really did feel that if he could find me, he would return the ring to me. I just had a really good feeling about him," she said in an interview.
Media caught wind of the story, including a Nanaimo-based television reporter who talked to homeless people in the area about the missing jewelry.
That's when a homeless man named Raymond Ahlstrom took it upon himself to find the bauble, Gajek said.
"He totally took on my cause. He did not need to do that," she said. "He made it his mission to go out into his community and get my ring back."
Gajek said Ahlstrom spoke to a number of people living on the street and eventually tracked down the young man she had given the money to. She said he found that the young man had placed the ring in his water bottle for safe keeping and was happy to turn it over.
Gajek and Ahlstrom later met up in Nanaimo, where he returned the jewelry and she gave him a cash reward. She plans to track down the young man who kept it safe and give him a cash reward as well.
"The ring really could have ended up anywhere," she said. "I'm thrilled to have it back."
The community has embraced the story's happy ending, too, Gajek said. Local businesses have stepped up to help Ahlstrom and a Vancouver-area jeweller has offered to repair some damage to the jewelry.
"I think everybody's kind of paid it forward as this positive spirit Christmas story," Gajek said. "It was just a really nice way to move into the Christmas season, for sure."
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